Davy Jones

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David Jefferson Jones

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Biographical Information[edit]

Davy Jones had a long major league career, mostly with the Detroit Tigers, with whom he was in the World Series three times in a row, from 1907 to 1909. He played in the outfield alongside Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford.

Born to Welsh immigrant parents in a small town in Wisconsin, Jones was one of the rare college-educated players from the Deadball Era, having earned a law degree from Dixon College (now Northern Illinois University). He was nicknamed Kangaroo for his tendency to jump contracts. In 1901, Davy, playing for Rockford, led the new-born Three I League with a .384 batting average in 77 games. Rockford sold him to the Chicago Orphans (the future Cubs) late in the season, but he decided instead to report to the Milwaukee Brewers of the American League, who were based closer to this home. He only batted .173 in 52 at-bats in his first taste of major league action in 1901. The Brewers became the St. Louis Browns after the season and Jones now claimed free agency, stating that his contract precluded his transfer to another city without his consent. At this point, he reported to the Chicago Cubs, who still owned his National League rights further to the previous year's incomplete transaction with Rockford. But, in another twist, he then consented to move to St. Louis, playing 15 games for the 1902 Browns before heading back to Chicago on May 14th when team owner James Hart offered him a 50% raise and a $500 signing bonus. Jones explained later that "a contract didn't mean anything in those days".

Jones played center field with Chicago from 1902 to 1904 while manager Frank Selee was building the great team that would go on to dominate the National League at the same time that Detroit was dominating the American League. He was often injured during this period, contracting typhoid in August 1902, and breaking a leg in an outfield collision with catcher Harry Smith of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1904. Jones was let go in spring training of 1905 as the injury was still bothering him, and his contract was sold to the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association. He played center field for the team while he gained back his strength and speed, finishing second in the league with a .346 batting average. At the end of the season, the Detroit Tigers bought three Millers players, Jones, catcher Boss Schmidt and pitcher Ed Siever.

Davy Jones would play against his old team in the 1907 and 1908 World Series. He was the starting center fielder for the Tigers in 1906, hitting .260 in 84 games, but was caught in a numbers crunch as he had to share playing time with Crawford, the rookie Cobb, and the veteran Matty McIntyre. The situation resolved itself in 1907, when McIntyre suffered a season-ending injury early in the year and Jones took his spot in left field, with Crawford taking center and Cobb in right field. Batting leadoff, he hit .273 and scored 101 runs while stealing 30 bases that season. He hit .353 in the World Series as the Tigers lost in five games to the Cubs. McIntyre was back in form in 1908 and Jones was now the odd man out, playing only 56 games with a .207 average as the three regular outfielders each had outstanding seasons. He only had two at-bats in three games, all as a pinch-hitter, in that year's World Series, and the Tigers again lost to the Cubs.

Jones got a bit more playing time in 1909, playing in 69 games, but doing much better than in 1908, with a .279 average and 44 runs scored as the Tigers won a third consecutive pennant. There is a mildly amusing picture of Jones with Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb at the 1909 World Series. While the great Wagner is showing the great Cobb some detail of his bat, Jones is notably looking away from the two and more interested in something else. See the Carnegie Library's photo of Jones, Wagner and Cobb in 1909. He started all seven games of that World Series when McIntyre was benched, batting .231 with six runs scored and a home run, but Detroit lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Davy Jones continued playing for the Tigers until 1912, getting into around 100 games per season as a semi-regular. He had a bit of a fiery temper, and in 1910, got into a fistfight with Washington Sentors' manager Jimmy McAleer, who had been his manager in St. Louis in 1902. He was at the center of Ty Cobb's famous brawl in New York in 1912, gauding the Southerner to go after the fan who was heckling him from the stands. He then got into a fight with umpire Billy Evans in Philadelphia, PA a few weeks later, and was handed a suspension. He was sold on waivers to the Chicago White Sox after the season, but played only 12 games with his new team in 1913 before being sent to Toledo of the American Association. He was one of the league's best hitters that year and then jumped to the new Pittsburgh Rebels of the Federal League in 1914. He scored 58 runs in 97 games, batting .273 before injuring his ankle. He played another 15 games for Pittsburgh in 1915, but was released even though he hit .327, apparently ending his career. Although he was in the majors for 15 years, only twice did he have 400+ at-bats in a season.

For many years, Jones' last appearance was incorrectly shown as 1915. After this, he earned a degree in pharmacy from the University of Southern California and worked in Detroit as a pharmacist, operating a drug store for some 40 years. But when he attended the last game of the 1918 season, he was invited to play. The game happened to mark the ends of the careers of manager Hughie Jennings and pitcher Bill Donovan. The official scorer wrote "D Jones" on the card, and the Tigers' relief pitcher Deacon Jones was wrongly credited with an appearance in the outfield. But it was Davy Jones who made the final putout: the ball is in the Hall of Fame.

Jones lived to be over 90 years old, moving to Mankato, MN with his second wife in the 1950s. He was interviewed by Lawrence Ritter for The Glory of their Times and contributed a number of funny anecdotes to the book.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (1907)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Mike Grahek: "David Jefferson Jones", in David Jones, ed.: Deadball Stars of the American League, SABR, Potomac Books, Inc., Dulles, VA, 2006, pp. 553-554.
  • Lawrence Ritter: The Glory of Their Times, The Macmillan Company, New York, NY, 1966, pp. 34-46.

Related Sites[edit]